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Ascension: Chapter 6
Posted By: Dragonclaws<nogard@gmail.com>
Date: 11 June 2010, 7:06 pm

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"I am afraid the holy armor could not be fully mended," 'Bepolee told the Arbiter with distress evident in his voice.

The Arbiter had just awoken from stasis, fully healed by a skilled team of Huragok, and had began consuming energy supplements when the mechanic Kigu 'Bepolee arrived to inform him of his failure.

"Is it unfit for battle?" he asked, gazing at the armor before him. From his vantage, the suit appeared mended.

"I am afraid so, Arbiter," 'Bepolee said, bowing his head with shame.

Despite the severity of the news, he was not nearly as disappointed as he would have believed. Now he had learned the truth, he no longer desired to be the blade of the Prophets and felt great desire to simply become another warrior. It is fitting, he thought to himself, that the end of the Prophets would also be the end of their most trusted servants.

However, he could not simply end his life as the Arbiter; he had to help convince the whole of the Sangheili race of the Prophets' treachery, and for such things he needed such a role of power. If the sacred armor was unfit, he needed to find a way to maintain his image as Arbiter without it…

"'Bepolee, I will need armor to fight," he began. "Craft for me a new suit, one which all may recognize as holy. Do this and I will hold you in favor."

"I am honored, Arbiter," the mechanic said, clearly astonished at his orders. "I shall begin at once."

"Do so," he said, bowing his head in a dismissal. The Sangheili hurriedly left to perform his duties, leaving the Arbiter to his meal of protein crystals.

Miranda and Johnson, finding they had little to contribute, kept quiet as the Elites discussed their allegiance to the Prophets and the Covenant. It seemed to be going quite well, the 'High Councilor' seemed committed to following the Arbiter as they waged war with their once leaders. Yes, she thought, this new alliance could very well turn the tide of the war.

However, they were cautious about informing the whole of their squad, afraid a sudden change would inspire insurrection. For now only about a dozen trusted soldiers were filled in. She looked up as a blue-armored Elite stepped in, bringing a large holographic generator.

"Greetings, Excellencies," the Elite bade with a bow of his head, speaking in the slow purposeful English of most their kind.

"Greetings, Oymomy," Commander Setfethy returned. "I trust you have learned our purposes?"

"Yes, Excellency," he answered. "I look to our changing relationship with the humans with growing anticipation."

"Good," the Commander acknowledged. "You may proceed," he gestured to the equipment.

"Yes, Excellency." The Elite positioned the machine in the center of the room and began setting it up, all the while taking curious glances at her and Johnson, particularly her. The machine lit up as he activated it, and he stepped back with what appeared to be a frown on his features.

"Is there something wrong, Oymomy?" Setfethy asked him.

"I am fine," the Elite answered. "I am only troubled because the High Prophet of Truth has not broadcasted for nearly a quarter of a unit. Normally, his encouragement is constant throughout a crisis." He motioned to the machine, currently displaying nothing.

"Another unit?" Johnson muttered to himself.

One of the two red-armored Elites, who had been assigned to guard them from possible insurrectionists, glanced at him. "It is a standard unit of time," the Elite explained gruffly. "An equivalent to your 'military days.'"

They nodded in understanding. While on Earth a day was always 24 hours, the time varied depending on the planet. Therefore, the UNSC employed the use of the 'military day,' identical to an Earth day, to be used in all situations.

"Do not waste your concern on the High Prophet," Commander Setfethy said with an uncomfortable warble in his voice.

"Yes, Excellency," Oymomy said after a slight pause, and then inserted a disc into the display. After a few seconds, an image of an island supporting a Covenant cruiser appeared over it.

"The cruiser Zealous Missionary, damaged by battle, chose to rest upon this small island for repair," the High Councilor narrated. "Many of the traitors left to inspect Forerunner monuments on the mainland, leaving the ship somewhat open to attack. However, the island itself has been fortified. Any attack would be seen at once by their forces and soon defended against. Commander Miranda Keyes," he looked her in the eyes. "Long has your kind fought against the tools currently wielded by our enemies. It would do this council a great kindness if you were to share the secrets your kind possesses of waging war."

She froze. To give away such information would be treason. On return to Earth, she would be sentenced to permanent induced coma. Yet… This cause was important. They needed to reach the Ark to deactivate the Halos, and to do that they needed a ship with slipspace engines. Also, the informal alliance they had made with these Elites threatened to break should she not aid them as requested.

Against her better judgment, she cleared her throat. "I'll tell you what I know."

Jitji hung limp as the Sangheili carried him to the Arbiter's quarters. Grief filled him; he had not only failed his task, but had caused the deaths of several other Unggoy. Now he would suffer death as a traitor to the Covenant. At least with less Unggoy there will be more food-drink for all, the horrible thought went through him.

He heard cheering and opened his eyes to see a crowd of Unggoy gathered around the entrance to the leaders' quarters. Cries of 'Praise Forerunners, traitor caught!' and 'Kill traitor!' assaulted his ears. He looked among them and saw Tatat, his new leader, cheering for his death like all the others.

He stared into his leader's eyes, trying to find any compassion, but found none. The Unggoy who had once supported his plan to save his brothers from starvation was replaced by an Unggoy who cried out for the death of a traitor. I am a monster, he thought with growing depression, closing his eyes.

The diming voices of the crowd made him aware his captor had entered the leaders' rooms. He tried not to think about anything as he heard the Sangheili talk to each other.

"'Opskitee, why have you brought this?"

"Bring the Arbiter at once. I have secured the traitor."

The Arbiter, having finished his rest, donned the broken armor and strode back towards the High Councilor's quarters. He paused as he heard his radio speak.

"Fear not, warriors," the radio crackled. "The traitor has been captured."

Traitor? he thought in alarm. His thoughts leapt to 'Setfethee and the High Councilor; had one betrayed the other? He quickened his pace.

"Arbiter," called out a Sangheili down a corridor on his right. The Arbiter stopped to allow the red-armored warrior to approach him. "Greetings, Arbiter, I am Omin 'Pirztikee. I have been sent by Eito 'Opskitee to deliver a message."

"What is the message?" he asked with some apprehension. 'Opskitee's continued opposition to his alliance made him weary.

'Pirztikee bowed his head and recited the message. "'Arbiter, I have secured the Unggoy traitor. I ask that you join me in storage room 7, so I may give you the honor of sending it to eternal darkness.' That is his message."

"The traitor was an Unggoy?" he asked aloud, startled.

"Yes, Arbiter," 'Pirztikee answered. "It killed one of its own and attempted to kill Warrior 'Ulkolee."

His thoughts raced. Unggoy had long been faithful servants. It seemed an incredible concept… much like what he preached to his comrades. This was a time for accepting incredible concepts. But it is not so, he thought, for what of the Unggoy Rebellion?

He remembered his teachings well: the Unggoy once thought they could take over the Covenant and walk the path alone, and so had attacked the Hierarchs. The Prophets, acting swiftly, created an Arbiter to force the Unggoy into submission and thoroughly punished them for their crimes. Perhaps this traitor similarly lusted for power?

But no, that could not be. Those past traitors were not bound as their descendants were. Puzzled, he thanked the messenger and sought out 'Opskitee.

Unfamiliar with the layout of the Forerunner complex, he followed directions given to him by the messenger, leading him to the storage room. He entered, laying his sight upon 'Opskitee standing in triumph aside an Unggoy, who knelt on the floor. "Greetings, 'Opskitee," he said formally.

"Greetings, Arbiter," replied the white-armored warrior, his mandibles twitching in anticipation. "Arbiter," he started. "Here lies the truth of the Humans' evil. For what else could drive a loyal servant into darkness? What else could make him lose his trust?"

What indeed? the Arbiter wondered. Had he not been certain of the Humans' innocence, he would likewise suspect them at once. He looked down at the Unggoy and growled. "Tell me, traitor," he said. "Why did you betray us?"

The Unggoy flinched, saying, "Excellency, we Unggoy no have food-drink to feed all. Me try go on next mission to bring back more."

"Clearly the creature has no knowledge of its own corruption," 'Opskitee interpreted.

The Arbiter frowned; the Unggoy's story was indeed perplexing. "Explain to me why your desire to feed your fellow Unggoy necessitated the death of a Sangheili warrior," he ordered the traitor.

"Sangheili go stop me, me seal in pit," the Unggoy explained. "Me no try kill, me try delay."

"And the Unggoy?" he asked, to some extent confused by the rationality of its explanation.

"Unggoy leader block exit, me no choice," the Unggoy answered. "Arbiter," the traitor began trembling as he spoke. "Me no care about own life, me only care for other Unggoy. Please, Excellency, bring back food-drink!"

He stared at the Unggoy with amazement. Only then had it occurred to him that if the Prophets were indeed false, that if the reasons which formed the Covenant were wrought with deceit, then perhaps all he knew of their history had been tainted with their lies. He ignored 'Opskitee as he blathered on about the evil Humans had brought with them, and instead spoke to the Unggoy. "Your name, Unggoy?"

"Me Jitji, Excellency," the Unggoy answered nervously.

"Servant Jitji," he addressed him formally. "Do you know why you must drink from the food-nipple?"

"To live, Excellency?" Jitji asked with obvious confusion.

"Your kind once ate from plants and animals, similar to the Kig-Yar," the Arbiter informed him. "Have you never wondered why you possess teeth?"

"No, Excellency," Jitji said.

Unggoy have never been valued for their intelligence, he thought to himself as he continued. "Your ancestors committed a grave crime, Jitji, for they attacked the Hierarchs themselves. An Arbiter, a tool of the Hierarchs, was created to quell their insurrection." He thought back to his own rebirth and of the High Prophet of Truth using him to execute the leader of a group of heretics, people who had simply learned the truth. "The Unggoy were made to pay for their deeds and so the Prophets created the Milk—what you call 'food-drink'—to bind the Unggoy to the Covenant for all time. As history tells it, the Prophets wove obedience and honor into the Milk to cure your corrupt race…

"However, I have recently learned historical facts from the Oracle which undermine what I have been taught. Now, after contemplating the Unggoy Rebellion, I see the truth before me. The Milk has no power on its own, it is simply a tasteless liquid designed to feed and humiliate your race. You, having been raised on Milk, are no better than an Unggoy raised on meat. It is useless to starve your brothers, Jitji, therefore I will grant your wish and allow your kind to eat meat and plants once more."

"Thank you, Excellency!" Jitji cried, beginning to weep openly.

The Arbiter thought he understood: the Unggoy had calmly gone on its 'mission' knowing he would die in any case, but now he wept knowing his fellows would survive while he would not. I was once like you, Jitji, he thought. Bowing before my executioner…

The High Prophet of Truth had shown him mercy and transformed him into an icon of their power. It was a good strategic move, one that could aid him well… "I shall spare you, Jitji," he said, causing the Unggoy to stare up at him with amazement.

"Me… thank you, Excellency!" Jitji managed to say as he shook with excitement.

"Arbiter!" 'Opskitee cried in horror. "This Unggoy is a traitor! It must be punished!"

"You are correct," he agreed. "I cannot think of a faster way to die than as personal servant to the Arbiter. Come, Jitji." He turned and walked out.

Eito watched in horror as the Arbiter walked away with the grinning traitor at his side. Now he knew for certain: the Arbiter had been thoroughly corrupted by the Humans' evil. There was no way to reason with him nor, he reasoned, with any of those he had turned. The way to break the spell, he was sure, would be to slay the Humans.

Despite his clarity, he knew he would never be able to slay them surrounded by the corrupted. His only choice would be to reach his brothers before they fell to the corruption, for he was certain he would not accomplish this task alone.